MIDDLETON, NS - The strength, courage and determination demonstrated in her fight against leukemia served as pure inspiration to a former Queen Annapolisa facing her own cancer battle.
13-year-old Karissa Bezanson of Lawrencetown is battling Acute Biphenotypic Leukemia. She has to take 249 pills a week in addition to chemotherapy treatments.
Tanya Marie Olscamp of Middleton, a former Queen Annapolisa, recently overcame a battle against aggressive breast cancer. She has decided to organize a community fundraising benefit event for Bezanson and her family. It’s coming up on Dec. 1 at the Middleton Fire Hall.
Bezanson’s fight against leukemia has greatly impacted her quality of life. She misses social activities, playing sports, being with team members and regular school days with friends.
“I sometimes think never knowing how I am going to feel day-to-day is challenging, it’s hard to make plans and breaking them,” Bezanson said.
She gets “a little scared” when the pain is bad. Every time she gets sick, it takes her body longer to heal and she often feels tired. When asked how she keeps her spirits up, Bezanson credited her mom, nan, sister, papa and Joel. She said her mom, Shannon Hohmann, pushes her to accomplish things when she is feeling sick or having bad days.
Bezanson said cuddling with her dog helps, as do all of the messages she receives from the special people in her life. She said talking to friends she has made since her diagnosis is helpful, especially those who are facing a similar struggle.
“I feel like they understand how I feel,” Bezanson said. “The nurses and doctors are so great, they are good support. I love them all.”
She said it’s important to stay positive, love your supporters and to be thankful for every day you have to share with those you love.
Bezanson said she thinks it’s very nice of Olscamp to organize a fundraising event for her and her family and they are very thankful. She said Olscamp is “a very kind lady.” Bezanson is very glad they met and she loves Olscamp. The only thing that “sucks” is that it was cancer that brought them together.
Sharing a special bond
Olscamp and Bezanson have shared a special bond throughout their respective cancer battles. They were diagnosed on the same day two years ago. Olscamp recalls being nervous and scared as she went for her first chemo treatment.
“I walked in and saw Karissa. This was my very first encounter with her,” Olscamp said. “Here was this little child, sick and bald receiving her treatment and smiling. I immediately thought if she can do this, so can I. And I also intuitively knew we would become friends one day.”
Olscamp said she learned more about Bezanson’s story through Facebook and went to meet her at a benefit event that was organized soon after Bezanson’s diagnosis.
“There was an instant connection,” Olscamp said. “Over the two years we have supported each other through our journeys and became the best of friends. She is my lil’ overcomer.”
Olscamp remembers when Bezanson showed her a collection of stringed beads. Bezanson receives one for each treatment she gets. Olscamp cried looking at the seemingly endless chain of beads.
“Again, she demonstrated to me that I could move through my own journey with courage,” Olscamp said.
She said Bezanson is her “greatest hero” and her strength is a source of great inspiration. What she loves most about Bezanson is her ability to see the good in any situation. Regardless of how many bad days she has or how bad those days get, Bezanson will always tell you something positive about her experience.
“I’ve seen her down and out, missing all the activities she used to love or in a lot of pain and still go out to donate toys to a family in need, show up at my house with flowers to bring cheer in my journey or make everyone smile with her wicked sense of humour,” Olscamp said.
She recalls Bezanson telling her that she had been told she has a 10 per cent chance of survival. Bezanson then quickly said, “I’m going to be one of those 10 per cent. I have a lot of things I want to do like run and play hockey.”
A way to help
Olscamp has watched in amazement as Bezanson continues to face each hurdle she encounters with courage and bravery. However, medical expenses relating to her battle against leukemia have taken a financial toll on Bezanson’s family.
Recently, they came home to a flooded basement after weeks at the IWK Health Centre. Olscamp said her heart broke to hear this. She felt that she could at least try to ease the financial burden by organizing a benefit and hopefully raise the family’s spirits in the process.
Olscamp said the community rallied behind her and her children when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, even providing Christmas to them when Olscamp could not. She said she would never forget the kindness and love shown to her, which greatly boosted her spirits. Olscamp wants to give Bezanson and her mom the same experience.
Olscamp said Bezanson’s energy and spirit took a hit this summer when she learned she now needs to use crutches and a wheel chair for mobility. She is in frequent pain and needs a knee replacement.
“A successful event would be so wonderful for this little overcomer,” Olscamp said.
Olscamp approached her friend Natasha Walsh about holding a paint night event as a fundraiser. Walsh graciously offered all profit as a donation to Bezanson. When Olscamp announced on social media that she was looking for a venue, she was “blown away” by the response from the community. She has been glued to her phone 24-7 as the offers of help and support pour in.
The Middleton Fire Department offered space in the hall for the day. Olscamp said that with the all-day event, people can choose how they would like to support Bezanson and can donate as little as $1. The event will allow for a wide range of community members to drop in, participate and send best wishes to Bezanson. Olscamp said it will be a great way to start the holiday season.
If you go…
- The community fundraiser for Karissa Bezanson takes place at the Middleton Fire Hall on Dec. 1.
- There will be a cake and pie auction and a ticket auction from 9 a.m. to noon and a 50/50 draw. The draws and pick-up begin at 11:30 a.m.
- The Paint Night with Natasha Walsh takes place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and there is a second 50/50 draw in the afternoon.
- Paint Night tickets are $45 each with a limited number being sold due to space. Tickets can be purchased in advance through e-transfer or cash to firstname.lastname@example.org (password Karissa) or at 376 Main St., Middleton. Any unsold tickets will be available at the door. $35 from each ticket will go to Karissa and her mom, Shannon Hohmann.
- Tanya Marie (Olscamp) or Wendy Porter can be private messaged through Facebook if people wish to donate to the cake, pie or ticket auctions.
- Private financial donations will be accepted prior to the event and the day of the event from anywhere in Canada and the U.S. Please private message Tanya Marie (Olscamp) through Facebook if you would like to donate.
For more information on the fundraiser, visit the event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/504890316693435/.